LONDON – New life was pumped into the Premier League title race on Saturday after leaders Chelsea suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, enabling Tottenham Hotspur to cut the gap at the top to seven points after its 2-0 win at Burnley.
Liverpool won a feisty Merseyside derby against Everton 3-1 at Anfield to move into third place as Chelsea’s pursuers were all given fresh hope after Antonio Conte’s side lost its first league match at Stamford Bridge since September.
The unlikely reverse, which Conte admitted made the title race “more interesting” for everyone, left Chelsea on 69 points with Spurs having moved on to 62 and Liverpool on to 59, though the Reds have played a game more than the top two.
Such has been Chelsea’s dominance at the Bridge this season that once Cesc Fabregas had put it ahead after just five minutes, it all promised to be plain sailing towards an 11th straight home win in the league for the Blues.
Yet two splendid goals from Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke in the space of three minutes soon after changed the complexion of the game with Palace then defending stoically to earn the unlikeliest of wins.
Spurs had appeared to be laboring at Turf Moor without injured striker Harry Kane and they lost Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks — the latter to what appeared a serious ankle injury — before the interval.
Yet Eric Dier and Son Heung-min struck in the second half to earn the points, leaving an encouraged Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino to declare: “It was important for us to be there if Chelsea failed — and we are there. We’re there fighting for the Premier League.”
With Chelsea on Wednesday next facing Manchester City, which currently lies fourth on 57 points and which first faces Arsenal on Sunday, it is little wonder that the Blues’ defeat has put a new spring in Pochettino’s step.
Juergen Klopp will feel invigorated too after becoming the first Liverpool manager to win his first three Merseyside derbies as his side won with goals from Sadio Mane, the inspired Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi.
Liverpool made it 17 league matches unbeaten at Anfield against its city rival after Mane’s brilliant early individual effort was answered by a first goal for Everton from Matthew Pennington.
The youngster, though, was bamboozled less than three minutes later by the skill of Coutinho, who curled a delightful shot into the corner before sealing his masterful display by putting in substitute Origi.